Words by Tishanna Williams
Photo by Varun Baker
I lyrical Gun-Aklan was never born / I buss out of meh mudda womb / Grab a mic, slap the doctor and gone. This is not a negotiation / This track so hot / It could bun down yuh station
-Ataklan, “Renegade Soca”
Robber Talk is a boastful, articulate, and rhyming speech cataloging the deeds, conquests, history, and various supernatural-approaching abilities of the Midnight Robber, one of the most iconic traditional Carnival characters. A robber often relates his great ancestry, accompanied by rhythmic use of language and a detailed chronology full of quotations, rhetoric, riddles and allusions to popular history, religion and mythology, leading to suggestions that ”Robber Talk” is derived from the tradition of the Griot of West Africa.
Like Bunji Garlin, the style of Mark Ataklan Jimenez—known simply as Ataklan—recalls the days of old when the Robber reigned supreme, and all fell silent at the sound of his voice. Bunji has always been a lyricist extraordinaire but what had always struck us is his passion for giving credence to pioneers of the the art forms that helped shape his music and the legacy. This year he has added “Renegade Soca,” with the new-age rapso icon Ataklan, to his list of high-powered collaborations. (The two previously collaborated back in ‘99, along with fellow soca artists Ghetto Flex and KMC, for “The All Star Show.”)
Ataklan, for those that don’t recognize the name, is a singer/songwriter who was born in Morvant Laventille, the birthplace of such fierce talents as Damien Marcano of God Loves The Fighter fame. A part of the music and culture landscape of Trinidad since ‘93, he has toured with Machel Montano and Xtatic, worked with legendary Jamaican producer Mikie Bennett and artiste Sizzla Kalonji, and shared stages with the likes of Buju, Shaggy, Lauryn Hill and Baaba Maal. Recently, he produced Rapsonic, a star-studded Rapso concert held at Coco Lounge in Port of Spain last month.
Produced by UK/Trini duo Jus Now, “Renegade Soca” incorporates the call and response “Lavwey” chant heard on the stickfight gayelle, and which has now become embedded into the island’s musical landscapes. The track, which calls to its listeners on a subconscious, almost ancestral level, was created using the Trini-made ‘Indigisounds’ Pan Library, the first real steel pan sample library. Can Renegade Soca be a next step in the evolution of our Robber/Chantuelle Ataklan? Only time will tell. The artist is currently releasing tracks and working on his next album, and we definitely can’t wait.